If a loved one has ever been arrested or had a criminal case, or perhaps even a criminal record, that loved one usually feels that a heavy weight has been lifted off their shoulders when that case is finally over.
However, at some point that prior criminal case can come back to haunt the person. Almost every other day, my office receives calls by individuals that had a criminal case many years ago. All of a sudden, they receive notice that Immigration is looking for them or has placed them in Deportation or Removal Proceedings due to that old criminal case.
This usually takes the form of a Notice to Appear commanding that the person appear at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York (presuming the person is within that jurisdiction). These people begin to wonder why they have to deal with this again since they already paid their dues to society. I try to explain to them that the immigration case is separate and distinct from the criminal case.
In addition, I let them know that even the simplest criminal charge within the criminal court context may be a very serious matter for immigration issues.
I’ll give an example. I have a client that was convicted of a minor drug offense and just decided to plead guilty because he was allegedly told by his criminal lawyer that it was a slap on the wrist. Well, when Immigration found out after travel abroad, he was placed in removal proceedings and did not fit within any waiver relief (meaning he could not effectively stop his removal). This was shocking to him, and understandably should be. So, what can someone like that do? Well there may be various options. In that particular case, we had to vacate (get rid of / reopen) the criminal case. After doing that, the charge was amended to a non-removable / deportable offense.